EVERETT - While other students returned to classrooms around the archdiocese this month, Jack Webb has been busy learning at home — on the couch, at the kitchen table, outside or even at his desk.
“I can learn whatever I want and I’m learning all the time,” said 13-year-old Jack, a member of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Everett who enjoys history, reading, cartography and writing.
His mother, Tiffany Webb, a freelance graphic designer, said she and her husband Jonathan found it “ridiculously easy” to choose home schooling for their four children, ages 6-13. Home schooling not only fits their lifestyle and worldview, she said, but their home is the most beneficial environment for teaching their children academics as well as the Catholic faith.
The Webbs aren’t alone: Home schooling is growing in popularity, with some 1.77 million U.S. students home-schooled in 2011, or 3.4 percent of school-age children, according to the U.S. Department of Education. It’s harder to estimate the number of Catholic home-schoolers. One Puget Sound-area Catholic home-schooling group, the online St. Thomas More Home Educators, has grown from 100 families in 1995 to 365 families today, according to Lisa Brown, the group’s moderator.
Co-ops broaden opportunities
Catholic home-school co-ops generally meet weekly, providing a place for group learning as well as fellowship for students and their parents. Some support groups are parish-centered or draw from a specific area. In local groups, classes such as Latin, writing, science and dance have been provided by parents.
Aidan also enjoys co-op field trips, and the extra free time and family time that home schooling provides. His mother, Katy Wilson, echoed that sentiment in an email. “Keeping close as a family is the true core of home schooling,” wrote Wilson, who home-schools her four children, ages 2-10, and is secretary of their co-op.
As part of his home-school science studies, Jack Webb made this periodic table with cookies and icing. He got the idea from a video showing one made of muffins. Photo: Courtesy Webb family
Parents who home-school must be deemed qualified under state law and meet state school requirements — including 180 days of classes, 11 required subjects and annual assessment tests. But they can determine the schedule that best fits their family, whether that means school year-round or summers off. Although the Webbs and Wilsons typically follow a traditional school year, learning continues during the summer with reading, projects and trips.
Wilson said she also appreciates the freedom to determine curriculum and grade level, “based on not only our family’s goals and resources, but on each child’s particular needs, abilities, and personality."
And home-schooled students have many opportunities to socialize and share their faith with their peers. “People think we don’t see friends much, but we get to see them all the time,” Jack Webb said.
Often, group members attend First Friday Mass together at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Everett. And, although the Webb and Wilson families teach the faith at home, their children also participate in some faith formation sessions at their parishes.
Home schooling allows these families to incorporate being Catholic into every aspect of their day.
“My hope is for our Catholic faith to permeate all we do in an organic way,” Wilson wrote. “We ought to live and breathe and study and play as Catholics — with diligence and intentionality and patience and love.”
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